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DePaul University appoints Cristel A. Turner as Chief Branding Officer

Seasoned brand and communications strategist brings experience from Kraft Foods, UScellular

Cristel Turner
Cristel A. Turner brings deep experience to her new role as chief branding officer. (Image courtesy of Cristel A. Turner.
CHICAGO — DePaul University has named seasoned marketing and branding strategist Cristel A. Turner as chief branding officer. Turner brings expertise leading global brand positioning, campaign creation and operations from roles at UScellular, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo. She will join DePaul Dec. 1.

“Cristel immediately impressed me with her dynamic skillset and passion for connecting her expertise to a value-based institution like DePaul,” said DePaul President Robert L. Manuel. “The combination of her remarkable talents and heartfelt dedication to serving others will elevate DePaul, ultimately enabling our university to make an even greater difference in the lives of our students and for the community in which we live.”

In this new role, Turner will partner with DePaul’s leadership team to develop marketing plans and comprehensive branding strategies. Leading the University Branding and Marketing team, Turner’s charge is to authentically connect with prospective students and their families and engage diverse communities locally, nationally, and globally.

“I’m a Chicagoan through and through, so the opportunity to help grow DePaul’s iconic brand is an honor,” Turner said. “While I’m a brand-storyteller, I have a business-building mindset. I want to help create a groundswell of interest that will attract more students to DePaul and build affinity for the brand among our alumni and friends.”

Turner has deep expertise leading brand positioning, campaign creation and new go-to market investment models. At UScellular, Turner served as senior director of brand communications and creative content. She is proud of her work to drive a digital marketing transformation there, which increased brand sentiment by 20% year-over-year.

She also led implementation of a robust Dynamic Content Optimization system to improve digital performance. At Kraft Foods (now KraftHeinz), Turner worked on iconic brands including Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Grey Poupon, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Cool Whip and DiGiorno. She went on to lead global beverage innovation for PepsiCo’s Growth Nutrition Group.

Her own daughter’s journey to select and enroll in college inspired Turner’s move to higher education. “I felt like it was the time in my life to lift and shift my skills into more purpose-driven brands,” Turner said.

Lifting and shifting for a higher purpose
“Historically, education runs deep through my family,” Turner added. Her mother taught for decades at City College of Chicago. Her grandmother was a teacher in one-room schoolhouses in Alabama. “For my family, it’s not only about focusing on the books, but also about broadening your aperture for what you can be.”

Social responsibility and service are important to Turner. She serves on the Board of Directors for Legal Prep Charter School on Chicago’s West Side, as well as the Delta Research and Education Foundation in Washington, D.C. In the past, she served on the Board of Directors for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. She also consulted with startups as a member of the Senior Advisory Panel for 1871 Chicago, a non-profit business incubator supporting local entrepreneurs.

Turner earned her MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and completed the Chief Marketing Officer Program. She earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing at Western Illinois University.

“I’ve learned in life that it’s not about where you work, but the people you’re working with,” Turner said. She was inspired by Manuel’s leadership vision to transform DePaul into a national model for higher education. “That’s a big, audacious goal,” Turner said. “I’m honored and excited about working with the team.”

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